August 18, 1924
Our train compartments got real quiet as we pulled into Union Station this morning. Biz Mackey was joking with a few other players, but mostly we were all just getting grips on our bags, thinking how the people of St. Louis would welcome us after the three-day pasting we gave the Cubs.
The humidness here hit us like a brick wall the second we walked outside, and we saw a few pickup trucks with creepy muscled guys rolling by. We moved fast to the curb, hopped in taxicabs and scooted over to the Ville section in northwest St. Louis. Benny and Rube were waiting for me, Oscar, and Cy at Roy's house, where him and his great wife Lucille had agreed to put us up and cook.
If Roy was a saint then Lucille was Mary herself. This woman served a pork roast for early lunch that just about dove off its bone, along with fresh greens and potatoes and the best lemonade we ever had. All with her three little boys to feed, too. Some people are just put on earth to remind us of home, I guess.
At the table we talked about the weird situation we were in, and what to do about it. Cardinals president Sam Breadon had wired Rube with his worries about possible fan violence at Sportsman's Park if we whacked his team around like we did the Cubs, even though the St. Louis fans were "giddy with sinful delight" over us beating up their arch rivals.
Rube's idea of the day was for Oscar to start almost all right-handed hitters in the lineup because Cards starter Jesse Haines had big trouble facing lefties, and for our pitcher Big Bill Foster—Rube's half brother—to "go easy on 'em" to keep the home fans excited. Oscar wasn't nuts about the plan, and didn't think Big Bill would go along. "Don't you fret, darlin'," said Rube, "The boy's nineteen years younger than me and he's gonna listen."
Well, either Judy Johnson didn't listen or he just didn't care, because he murdered Haines' first pitch into left for a single. The colored pavilion in right field was so stuffed there were fans on top of its roof, and with Judy's hit the whole thing shook like it was going to fall apart. It was strange, because the entire rest of the park was plumb quiet, and it got quieter when Oscar ripped a double to send Judy to third. Charleston was the only regular lefty we had in the lineup, which he figured he could get away with because he was the player-manager, but the Cards didn't seem happy about any of this. Nobody likes to have someone help them win because that's a pride-killer, and after we took a 1-0 lead on a deep Tubby fly, St. Louis went to town on Big Bill.
Taylor Douthit spit in his hands and gapped a double right off. Jack Smith did the same thing in the other direction and the game was tied after two Cards batters. Big Bill had thrown his lazy curves like his older half brother told him to, but he'd had enough of that and bonked Ray Blades on the hip with the next pitch. Ray glared out at him, the white crowd unleashed bloody screams, but the umpire got in Blades' face and calmed him down. The ump forgot about the next two batters, though, because Hornsby and Bottomley both hit killer singles and the Cards had a 3-1 lead!
Our dugout was nothing but a pit of angry snakes, and Cy and me couldn't even get a word in. Some of the players thought us falling behind was a good thing to keep the crowd at bay, but Oscar and Big Bill were embarrassed and let everyone know until half the bench was shouting at each other. Big Bill, who happens to be a switcher, went up to the left side of the plate with a man on and clubbed a Haines pitch into the right corner for a scoring double.
Blades singled in a run right back to put them up 4-2, but that just got out innards boiling again. Oscar led with a single, and after Scales and Beckwith made outs, Mule Suttles doubled, Dobie Moore tripled, and the game was tied 4-4.
That's when the first empty pop bottle flew past Suttles' head in left field. Mule turned and looked at the stands, where two colored-hating idiots were standing and cursing and holding up rope nooses. Mule looked like he was going to jump in the stands and beat them to death with his mitt but he didn't have time to because Cooney hit a ball out to him which he had to flag down and catch.
The scoring stopped for the next two and a half innings, the right side of the park cheering the left side snarling, and then Bullet Joe Rogan walked with one out in the Black Phillie 6th. Rev Cannady, playing first base instead of Jud Wilson, then poked a deep fly that just made it over the left fence to give us a 6-4 lead. Two fans jumped out of the stands, knocked me down in the coach box and tried to tackle Rev as he got close to home plate but Cy ran over from first and held them off.
Policemen arrested the fans, but the pop bottle olympics started up again when we took the field and didn't let up. Hornsby crushed a homer in the 7th to make it 6-5 and shut the white fans up for a time, but when Big Bill rapped into a double play in the top of the 8th to probably kill our next rally, someone stood up behind our dugout and yelled, "Nice hit, Sambo!" when he jogged back in.
This wired our bench like a bolt of summer lightning. Judy Johnson singled. So did Oscar. Tubby Scales hit a ball that I think is still going. Beckwith and Suttles singled and Hi Bell took over for the beaten-up Haines. Moore doubled off him and we were up 10-5 and trash was falling from the sky. It took fifteen minutes to clean up the place and then the Cards got two runs back with three singles and a double. Dark green thunderstorm clouds circled the park and I was wishing for them to split open.
Then Big Bill had to go and drop down a bunt with a man on in the 9th. Judy Johnson singled and Johnny Stuart's next pitch almost hit Oscar in the head. Charleston got up and yelled something at Stuart and both teams began jawing. A half-eaten sausage roll knocked my hat off. We wouldn't get out of town alive, I was sure of it.
And then the most incredible thing happened: The St. Louis manager saved the day. Branch Rickey, an ex-player and smart religious fellow who served in the 1st Gas Regiment during the War, used to be the Cards' president and now runs the field team, walked out to Charleston in his spotless white uniform and shook his hand. Then he went over to Judy Johnson on first base and shook his hand. Then he went over to our dugout and shook the hand of every colored player on the bench before going back to his dugout.
Nobody knew what to make of this. But it was clear that he approved of the coloreds being here and made the dumber fans in the crowd feel even dumber, and that the game needed to be finished or he might even pull his players off and forfeit the game.
So Big Bill got through all nine innings without being shot. Our "weak" right-handed lineup still got 18 hits and won by four runs. But all of us were too shaken to celebrate much as we took our separate taxis back to the Ville. We sat and played cards most of the night, waiting to hear breaking glass or shotgun blasts or something even uglier like those 1917 riots here pass through the neighborhood, but it was just plain quiet.
Someone oughta give that Rickey guy a bigger baseball job sometime.
112 002 041 - 11 18 1
310 000 120 - 7 15 1
Other National League games today:
ROBINS 5-13-1, at PIRATES 2-6-1
The hugest win of the year for Brooklyn, by far. Vance whiffs 12 Bucs to give him 207 for the year, Wheat homers and Fournier doubles and singles off Kremer, and if Grimes beats them tomorrow the Pirate lead will be under five games for the first time in over a month.
at CUBS 11-13-3, BRAVES 4-11-2
Happy to see us leave town, Chicago takes it out on the pathetic Braves, Grantham smacking a 3-run shot off Genewich to break up a tie game in the 5th.
at REDS 5-9-1, GIANTS 4-7-2
No surprises here. RIxey wins again, and the Giants come back late from 5-0 to score four runs and tease both of their remaining fans again.
|NATIONAL LEAGUE through Monday, August 18|
|New York Giants||62||53||.539||12.5|
|St. Louis Cardinals||56||59||.487||18.5|